England thank the Anderson family values

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The Independent Online

The name's James. James Anderson. Not Jimmy. Let's get that straight from the start. A PA announcer at Old Trafford made that mistake and referred one day to the Lancashire seamer as "Jimmy" as he strode in to bat. Anderson Snr soon put him right.

As far as his family was concerned, England's youngest pace bowler, thrust so swiftly into the one-day set-up he should perhaps have appeared not on Sky Sports but the Discovery Channel, had not been contentedly going about his life for 20 years as James only to undergo a change of identity at the first hint of achievement.

Yet, such familiarity reflects a meteoric rise to prominence and the accompanying affection that brings. The Andersons from Burnley may just have to get used to their son becoming "Jimmy" by popular consent.

Less than a year ago, he was just highly-promising officer material, anonymously prep-aring for the start of his county second-team season. By October, having garnered 50 first-class wickets at an average of 22.28, with the best his 6 for 23 against Hampshire, he had been selected for England's Academy at Adelaide. When injuries befell Duncan Fletcher's squad, he was immediately summoned. With no time for a passing-out parade, Anderson was sent into action at Melbourne. It was straight into the front line, where he is likely to remain in the World Cup.

Remarkable to consider that it was only two months ago that he playedhis first one-day international. Back home in Burnley, his parents, Michael and Catherine, only discovered the fact just before the start when they received a text message. Just two words, but they carried a thousand emotions: I'm playing.

"It took a while for it to sink in that here was our son on TV, against Australia, with Nasser Hussain giving him instructions, and hearing people like Ian Botham, who you've idolised over the years, commentating about him," said Anderson Snr. He turned to his wife. "We still can't get used to it, can we?"

There was some debate at the time that Anderson's elevation was precipitate. It was a concern his parents shared. "We felt it might have been a bit soon for him and starting off against Australia was a very tough test, seeing what they had done to the rest of the England bowlers," said his father. "But he does seem to adapt very quickly to the standard he's required to play."

His first wicket on that debut was Adam Gilchrist's. Simultaneously, several thousands of miles away there was, more than anything, a release of tension as Michael, a 42-year-old optician, and Catherine, an administrator at Burnley College, together with Michael's 16-year-old sister, Sarah, leapt into the air. "Not a bad one to get for your first victim, was it?" said Anderson Snr. In only his second England game Anderson's slower ball enticed the Sri Lankan captain Sanath Jayasuriya into a loose shot and a catch for Hussain. There are worse ways of making an impression.

It was at Burnley Cricket Club, where Anderson Snr once bowled – "medium pace, at least in comparison to James" – that his son first became entranced with the sport. "From the moment he could walk, James would come down to watch me. He played right through the junior teams at Burnley and made his first-team debut in the Lancs League at 15. But it was not until two years later that he suddenly realised he could bowl quickly, and could worry one or two batsmen."

One of those was the Nelson professional, Roger Harper, the former West Indies all-rounder. "James got him first ball and that gave him a lot of confidence. He knew then that he had the ability to bowl against good players."

Anderson Snr had an input to his son's early development, though it was a bit like teaching someone to drive who possessed the potential of an advanced motorist. "There were times when we didn't see eye to eye, although mostly we got on well. But James would certainly take advice more readily from other people rather than his dad," he said ruefully. "I made a few suggestions when he was younger, but most of it was just encouragement. He didn't have any serious coaching until he got his contract at Lancs and Mike Watkinson [the Lancashire manager] started working a lot with him."

Few, however, could have foreseen the spectacular acceleration of his career, except perhaps those like Paul Allott, the former Lancashire fast-medium bowler and committee member, who has witnessed him develop into a bowler capable of a 90mph-plus delivery, accurately, and with late away swing.

"That game against Australia at Adelaide when he bowled his 10 overs for 12 runs [the most economical one-day performance by an England bowler since Botham in 1992], was one of the best pieces of line bowling I've ever seen. It was a remarkably mature performance," Allott said.

Those 10 consecutive overs were produced in temper-atures of 49C. "James said he felt sick and dizzy afterwards," recalled Anderson Snr. "He told us he was finding it difficult to breathe." Yet, the player's fitness pulled him through and for that his parents attribute his work at the Academy under Rod Marsh.

There are moments, though, when it can be painful being a parent of a prodigy. That run-out, when he was last man in the second VB final at the MCG, with England requiring six for victory, made upsetting viewing. "To see him knelt there, looking distraught, that was an awful moment," recalls Anderson Snr. "But in any sport there will be bad times and we're going to have to accept that."

Such incidents will be far from his mind as he and his son's uncle and grandfather prepare to travel out to South Africa for the three principal first-round games against Pakistan, India and Australia. Perhaps then Anderson Snr will be declaring with the rest of us, "Nice one, Jimmy". And not, "Home, James".

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